Monday, 3 August 2009

North Shore City to remember Passchendaele

News release
For immediate release
3 August 2009


More than 18,000 New Zealand casualties, including 5,000 deaths, will be recognised in North Shore City at the 92nd anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele this October – with North Shore City Council confirming its support for commemorative activities.

The sponsorship will go towards helping to bring a travelling exhibition by the Passchendaele Memorial Museum to Fort Takapuna, along with other civic events such as a March Past, civic reception, commemoration event and a massed bands performance.

The events will be part of North Shore City’s annual Heritage Festival (October 2 – 12) and, during this period, New Zealand and Belgian flags will hang side-by-side in the North Shore’s main streets.

Passchendaele: The Belgians Have Not Forgotten will open at Fort Takapuna on October 4, the 92nd anniversary of the Battle of s’Graventafel – a great victory for New Zealand soldiers which opened the way for them to Passchendaele. The exhibition will run until November 15.

It features photographs, images, movies, information and artefacts highlighting the memories of New Zealanders which live on in Belgium today.

Over the past four months the display has been mounted in Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Featherston, and will soon open at the Waiouru Army Museum before making its way to Fort Takapuna.

Mayor of North Shore City, Andrew Williams says it is an honour for the city to be the final host for this tour through New Zealand.

“It is significant that North Shore City will be part of such a poignant exhibition on the 92nd anniversary of Passchendaele. Fort Takapuna is where many soldiers, including the Maori Pioneer Battalion, were in camp before heading off to represent our country, so it is fitting that the exhibition should be held at this historic military site.”

“The street march, culminating in a civic reception on Saturday 10 October, will also be a highlight and I encourage people from around the Auckland region to come along in support of our countrymen.”

Former Honorary Consul for Belgium and organiser of the exhibition, Iain MacKenzie says for many years New Zealanders have commemorated Gallipoli as the focus for our country’s involvement in World War One. But the battles on the Western Front far outweighed any losses before or since.

New Zealand lost 5,000 people in Flanders, Belgium from 1917 – 1918, more than double the number killed at Gallipoli. Passchendaele had a devastating effect on the social fabric of what was then a very small nation.

“Of all the battles fought by New Zealanders in foreign lands, there are more New Zealand soldiers buried in Belgium than in any other country,” says Mr MacKenzie.

“On October 12, 1917, which was the day of the greatest casualty, 845 New Zealand boys were killed – more than the combined total from the eruption of Mt Tarawera, the Hawke’s Bay earthquake, Tangiwai rail disaster, sinking of the Wahine and Erebus.

“The exhibition is the Belgian people’s way of demonstrating that they have not forgotten the great sacrifice made by New Zealanders 92 years ago.”

The New Zealand Division was withdrawn from Flanders in February 1918; eight months after major operations began. The division won three Victoria Crosses for bravery during this period.

Further details regarding Passchendaele commemorative activities in North Shore City will be posted to www.northshorecity.govt.nz

For more information regarding the exhibition visit www.thebelgianshavenotforgotten.blogspot.com


Contacts:
Olivia Starrenburg, North Shore City Council Communications Advisor, phone: 486 8600 ext 8749 or 027 241 3165, email: Olivia.starrenburg@northshorecity.govt.nz,

Iain MacKenzie, Honorary Consul of Belgium (2001-2009), phone: 09 575 6202 or 027 495 5226, email: ismackenzie@xtra.co.nz

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